Sunday, April 30, 2006

Rational Bigotry

I once listened to Sean Hannity by mistake.  I was driving my new boss’s car and didn’t want to change the radio station, lest I forget to change it back and piss her off.  So I was listening to the station she had it on, and it was this guy talking about something.  I couldn’t quite figure out what exactly he was talking about, or where he was going with it; mainly because I didn’t know who it was.  I didn’t even know that Hannity had a radio show, and this guy sounded totally reasonable.

Slowly, I figured out that he was talking about that gay New Jersey governor guy, who had just given his big press conference about everything; and Hannity sounded completely reasonable talking about it.  He wasn’t angry or mean-spirited.  He sounded relatively intelligent.  And I was surprised.  Not because I thought Hannity was being reasonable, because I still didn’t know who it was; but just because I was actually listening to it on talk radio.  I used to be a dittohead back in the day (circa 1993), and knew a thing or two about talk radio; and this guy sounded refreshing.  And he wasn’t boring either.  I wasn’t particularly impressed, per se; but I clearly will acknowledge his expert oration abilities.

And after awhile, he’s talking about how there’s nothing wrong with being gay, and whatnot.  And how we shouldn’t judge against the guy, and regular, normal things about homosexuals and how some people just have that kind of preference and it’s no big deal.  And then he gets to the punchline, and it was waaaay out in right field.  Just something completely the opposite message-wise of what he had just been saying; and yet, if you weren’t thinking about it, would have sounded completely natural and as a part with the earlier, more reasonable stuff.

Because he started giving us reasons for why we should punish and destroy the gay governor.  Not because he was gay, but because of his deception about being gay.  Because he lied to his wife and lived a double life.  And this is all just a grown-up variant of the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” meme that the gay-haters pretend to so viciously.  But it was done so smoothly.  Trust me, I know my rhetoric and this guy was pat.  So that ten or fifteen minute reasonableness that he started with was just a ruse in order to refocus his flock’s anger towards the gay; in a sense, rationalizing bigotry and hatred.

And it worked.  I wasn’t going to fall for it because I’ve got my trusty biobrain which is totally in-tune to spotting this kind of trickery; but a less critical mind would almost surely fall for these techniques.  Particularly if they want to believe; and they all so want to believe.  Guys like Limbaugh and Hannity put sense to their senseless lives and these people flock to whoever can provide them with order, logic, and a sense of the big picture.  And it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t really make sense or depends on propaganda and manipulation.  It makes sense to them.  And they believe.  

Just like why you guys come to me (besides the wicked humor and free backrubs, of course).  Except that I really am telling the truth and have a keen mind for seeing the obvious and stating it in a way which sounds not quite so obvious.  But that’s exactly what these people see from Limbaugh and the others.  That’s exactly how they feel.  Everything that Limbaugh says makes just so much sense and really does tie-up the loose-ends in a neat fashion.  Just like what I do; except dishonestly.  And they wouldn’t call it slight-of-hand if the trickery was easy to see.

And they see Limbaugh and Hannity as being reasonable people.  Because they don’t shout.  They’re not angry.  They don’t sound irrational to folks who want to believe.  They’re not openly bigoted; but rather, help normalize bigotry.  A logical façade to mask the illogical.  It’s not about the gays; it’s what the gays are doing to us.  It’s not about Mexicans; it’s about what the dirty Mexicans are doing to us.  It’s not about hurting blacks, or women, or Muslims; it’s about ending racist affirmative action programs and defending our nation.  Bigotry has been given a big makeover, and now takes the guise of an assault against dignity and all that is holy.  Bigotry has become a cause for righteousness and civil liberties.

And it works.  That’s why they think we’re completely nutso when we attack these guys.  Because they just don’t see it.  They believe what they’re told and really do see Limbaugh as a moderate-conservative-nice guy truth-teller; kind of like Will Rogers on Oxycon and a few more asswarts.  And no attacks against them or insults can change that.  And god forbid that you try bringing up a fact that isn’t Limbaugh certified-true.  They don’t see these guys as the source of their worldview; they see them as the confirmation of it.  

And the more we denounce these sources of wisdom or conflict with them on any regard, the more they’ll see us as extremist fruitcakes who couldn’t see their own hand if they grabbed it with both asses.  And that’s exactly the way the Limbaughs want it.


bibblesnæð said...

So my parents are retired and live on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I work at home in Alexandria, Virginia. Well, you know how retired parents are (I assume you have parents--whether they're retired or not I can't say). They need help with stuff fairly often, so I head over there for a day or two maybe once a month.
Well, it's way out in the country. Parksley, Virginia is the nearest town to them, and it's one of the biggest towns in the county, and at the last census it had 837 busy, bustling folks living there. You get the idea.
So, once I cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and the Washington and Baltimore FM stations begin to fade, if I don't feel like listening to my Moody Blues cd's, there's not much choice on the radio but country music, which I hate, and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
Well, I know I should never listen to them, but sometimes I do. And let me tell you, Limbaugh is one of the most pissed off dudes I've ever come across.
I mean he's pissed off about everything. Taxes? Pissed off about them. Valerie Plame? Steaming over her. Harry Reid spoke in favor of motherhhod? He can't believe Reid had the nerve to try to coopt a registered Republican issue. For somebody whose favored ideology is pretty much in control of this country, he sure is whiny and unsatisfied--but that's something for another day.
I don't think yahoos listen to Limbaugh becasue he sounds reasonable. I think they listen because he isn't reasonable, and by virtue of being famous and somewhat influential, somehow excuses their own worst impulses.
And Hannity is only margianlly less pissed off than Limbaugh.
I think the thing that really makes them popular is that they are somewhat smarter than their listeners, and therefore can make their points somewhat more coherently. If the yahoos pay heed, they can try to catch some of that coherence and try to use it in their own arguments with godless liberals.
That's their trick: they give the yahoos a shot at sounding less freakish and ignorant.

Mumphrey said...

For the record, my parents do NOT listen to Limbaugh or Hannity; they are good liberals in a land of conservatism.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Well both my parents listen to Limbaugh, among others, and I can assure you that both of them find Rush to be reasonable and not very rightwing. Both of them are relatively intelligent, college-educated, typical upper-middle-class sane people who would never say anything openly racist or bigoted; and both of them are avid dittoheads who trust just about anything the dude says. In fact, they believe what Limbaugh and O'Reilly say about people like me more than they believe their own son speaking of his own beliefs.

And what we would call "pissed-off" they think is just reasonable discourse. Somehow it all sounds different to them. And as a former dittohead, I can attest to that fact. From a different perspective, Rush sounds reasonable.